Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said staff changes are underway at senior and junior levels, after the strongest bribery allegations since the Russian invasion threatened to dampen Western enthusiasm for the Kiev government.
Reports of a new scandal in Ukraine, which has a long history of unstable governance, come as European countries wrangle to give it German-made Leopard 2 tanks – the workhorse of armies across Europe that Ukraine says it needs to break the Russian lines and retake territory.
“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – on officials at various levels in ministries and other structures of the central government, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement,” Zelensky said in his late-night video address on Monday .
Zelensky did not identify the officials who will be replaced. Several Ukrainian media reported that cabinet ministers and senior officials may be fired immediately.
Ukraine’s deputy chief of staff, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, later said he had asked Zelensky to relieve him of his duties. He did not give a reason, but media earlier reported that he may be part of a disturbance.
On Sunday, anti-corruption police said they had arrested the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of accepting a $400,000 bribe to import generators last September, an allegation the minister denies.
Newspaper accused the Ministry of Defense of overpaying suppliers for soldiers’ food. The supplier said he made a technical error and no money was exchanged.
David Arahamia, head of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, said officials should “focus on the war, help the victims, cut red tape and stop dubious business.”
“We will definitely be actively going into prison this spring. If the humane approach does not work, we will do it under martial law,” he said.
“SPRING WILL BE DEFINITIVE”
The front lines in the war have been largely frozen in place for two months, despite heavy casualties on both sides.
Ukraine says the Western tanks would give its troops the firepower to break through Russian defense lines. But Western allies have been unable to agree on arming Kiev with tanks, wary of actions that could trigger Russian escalation.
Germany, which must approve the Leopard re-exports, has said it is willing to act quickly if there is consensus among the allies.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Warsaw would seek permission to send Leopard tanks to Kyiv and was trying to get more on board.
Germany was not blocking the re-export of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the European Union’s top diplomat said on Monday.
US lawmakers have pushed their administration to export M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, saying even a token number would help European allies do the same.
Britain has said it will supply 14 Challenger 2 tanks. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he does not rule out sending Leclerc tanks.
Russia tried to exert its own pressure.
“All countries involved, directly or indirectly, in arming Ukraine and increasing its technological level bear responsibility” for the continuation of the conflict, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.